Categorize Swift's motives in "A Modest Proposal" as personal, circumstantial, social, or political.Is it easy to assign his motives to categories?  Why or why not?

Expert Answers
teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jonathan Swift's motives in "A Modest Proposal" may be categorized as personal, circumstantial, social, and political.  It is not easy to assign his motives to one category because his essay speaks to each of them.  Swift was known for publishing pamphlets and essays that commented on the treatment of the Irish, so he certainly had a personal interest in these issues.  The nature of Swift's writing makes his motives for "A Modest Proposal" both social and political because Swift is arguing on behalf of Irish farmers.  And the circumstance of the drought in the 1700s that led to widespread crop failures and famine prompted Swift to write this particular essay.  The Irish were suffering terribly from famine and the English landowners at the time did essentially nothing to help the farmers.  Swift responded with "A Modest Proposal" to suggest that people are not simply additions to the farm that can be overlooked in times of hardship.  His satire suggests that landowners treated their tenants like livestock instead of like human beings.  So Swift's motives encompass the personal, circumstantial, social, and political.